Not too long ago in the comments of a post on Livejournal, a small discussion popped up about diversity in video games and how most of the industry tends to not be very progressive (in terms of including strong women characters, characters that are not white, and characters that are not straight). It was pointed out that, while it’s not entirely perfect, the Guild Wars series is likely one of, if not the most progressive major game series around.
There’s a lot to talk about on these subjects, and it’s going to get long, so this will be broken up into several posts over the next couple of weeks. Here is part one, discussing the presence of strong women in Guild Wars, and women in general, within the games.
I’ve noticed that in many games, there’s a magic ratio of 3:1; where for every three male characters, there’s one female character. While the numbers (among heroes and henchmen) are not entirely 1:1, they’re certainly far better than 3:1; I counted up the heroes and of the 29 available, 11 of them are women, nearly 40% of them. Pretty good! I didn’t count up the henchmen, as there are a lot and many overlap between the campaigns, but a quick glance over the lists show that it’s a very similar proportion to the heroes.
Now, in most fantasy games, novels, movies, etc., the female characters are generally relegated to the roles of magic casters, and healers in particular. Here we have another place where GW likes to subvert the trope a bit. While yes, a lot of the female henchies tend to be casters, they’re not absolutely stuck to those roles only. In fact, the heroes completely flip that, with seven of the women being professions that are not casters, and only four being magic casters – and only one of those casters being a Monk. Of the non-magic professions, only Warriors have more male heroes than female – Assassins and Rangers are dominated by women, and Dervishes have one woman, one man, and one golem. The magic casting professions are far more male-dominated, with no female Elementalists, one Monk, one Mesmer, one Ritualist, and one Necromancer. An interesting flip of what you usually see!
The presence of women in the series carries over to NPCs, and amongst the major ones, ones that have power or are well-known, the games really shine. I mean, first and foremost, the Six Gods that humans worship. Of the six, four of them are women, and Dwayna is the leader of the six. That’s pretty awesome. The Shining Blade’s leadership was very heavily female-dominated, and the two monarchs of Kryta that we know of (Salma in GW1, and Jennah in GW2) are both women. In Factions we have Soar Honorclaw, leader of the Angchu Tengu, Reiko Murakami, head of the Ministry of Purity, and Vizu, who defeated Shiro the first time around; the Luxon clans are all led by women. The Sunspears were led by Kormir, and the ruler of Kourna was Varesh Ossa. The Ebon Vanguard was first led by Captain Langmar and then Gwen. Destiny’s Edge in Guild Wars 2 has Eir, Caithe, and Zojja – three of the five members are women. The Vigil, one of the Orders that can be joined in GW2, is led by Almorra Soulkeeper.
(Caithe and her awesomeness will be further discussed in a later post.)
While we’re at it, let’s take a quick look at the charr. The shamans decided to bar the women from fighting, and boy did that come back to bite them in the ass – Kalla Scorchrazor led the other female charr (who of course had been training in secret) against the Flame Legion, ignoring orders from the shamans that they were to stay at home. The presence of Kalla and her warriors doubled the number of charr fighting the Flame Legion, overthrowing them easily, and effectively changed charr society permanently. Anyone that tries to tell a female charr that she’s not the equal of a male likely will regret it very quickly.
Also, don’t forget the “six or none!” ultimatum when it came to designing the female charr.
Even minor NPCs – quest givers, collectors, and even just the guards you see patrolling (especially the Sunspears, Kournan guards, and Vabbian guards) hold a great number of women, definitely many more than I can recall seeing in many other games.
Now, is it perfect? Of course not. But it’s still far better than any other game I’ve played, and is certainly far ahead of most of the gaming industry at this point in time. And as a woman who likes (non-sexist and non-stereotypical) representation within media, I’m pretty pleased with how ArenaNet has done things so far, and how they continue to handle things.
And with that, Happy International Women’s Day to my readers!